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Broken China in Washington

July 15, 2005

A recurring topic here at Perrspectives has been the rise of China as a economic, military and diplomatic superpower and its impact on American security and prosperity. Since its inception, the response of the Bush administration to Beijing's emergence as American creditor, trading partner and strategic rival has alternately been silence or incoherence.
This week, the pressure for policy clarity towards China ratcheted up another notch. At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has delayed the annual report due to Congress assessing Chinese military threats and capabilities. DoD consensus has been stymied by internal disagreements about Chinese intentions and the scope of the Chinese nuclear arsenal. (The Chinese, it should be noted, are following this drama closely - and with great skepticism.)
Meanwhile, the rhetoric over Taiwan continued to escalate. Chinese general Zhu Chenghu warned that China would use nuclear weapons if attacked by the United States in a confrontation over Taiwan. "If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," he said. While both sides tried to downplay the comments, the United States continued to wrestle with its policy of strategic ambiguity regarding the defense of Taipei, including debate over whether to add an aircraft carrier battle group to the Pacific Theater.
In the United States, all eyes have been focused on Iraq. As one of the most critical global challenges facing the U.S., however, China can't remain on the backburner much longer.
For more Perrspectives coverage of rapidly developing issues and challenges in Sino-American relations, see:

UPDATE (7/19/05): The Pentagon has now released the long-awaited report to Congress, "The Military Power of the People�s Republic of China 2005." A PDF of the report is available here.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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